Respond to hate with love.
That’s the slogan of Muslim organizations that have raised nearly half a million dollars for the families of three Portland, Oregon men violently attacked when they tried to protect Muslim women being berated by a white supremacist.
The horrific encounter occurred last Friday, when two Muslim girls wearing hijab were allegedly accosted by Jeremy Joseph Christian while riding on a commuter train. The man, a known white supremacist, reportedly began screaming anti-Islamic slurs, catching the attention of three men who rose from their seats to defend the young women.
Then things took an even more harrowing turn: Christian allegedly pulled a knife and stabbed all three men, killing two and leaving a third hospitalized.
“We wish to respond to hate with love, to evil with good, as our faith instructs us, and send a powerful message of compassion through action.”
The tragedy has rocked Portland, where locals held vigils to mourn the victims of the attack — recent college graduate Taliesin Namkai-Meche, 23, and Army veteran Ricky John Best, 53, who were killed, and 21-year-old Micah David-Cole Fletcher, who was wounded.
American Muslims, however, felt there was more they could do. That’s why two Muslim groups —CelebrateMercy and the Muslim Education Trust — created a LaunchGood online fundraising campaign on Saturday that cited the Prophet Muhammad as inspiration to response to hate with compassion.
“We wish to respond to hate with love, to evil with good, as our faith instructs us, and send a powerful message of compassion through action,” the website reads. “Our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: ‘Have mercy to those on earth, and the One in Heaven (God) will have mercy upon you.’ The Prophet’s life exemplified that central commandment in the Quran: ‘Repel evil with that which is better’ (41:34).”
— Omar Salha (@o_salha) May 28, 2017
Organizers, who noted that people of all faiths were welcome to contribute, initially set out to raise $60,000, hoping to aid with funeral expenses for the victims’ families and help pay for Fletcher’s medical bills.
According to the campaign website, it took only five hours to shatter that goal.
Money continued to pour in over the weekend, and the campaign has now raised more than $450,000 as of Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, hundreds attended events at Muslim community centers in Portland to learn what they can do to help, and others have started using the hashtag #Muslims4Portland on Twitter to mourn the victims and lift up their bravery.
The inspiring display of interfaith solidarity follows a long history of Muslim groups raising money for victims of tragedy. When black churches across the country were struck by a wave of arson attacks in 2015, for example, Muslim groups pulled together $90,000 to help their neighbors with repairs. And when Jewish cemeteries were desecrated earlier this year, Islamic organizations helped raise more than $65,000 to aid with clean up efforts. Other faith groups have returned the favor: when a mosque in Tampa, Florida burned to the ground in February, Jewish groups rallied to accrue more than $60,000 to help rebuild.
Muslim Americans have recently endured a sharp spike in Islamophobic incidents. The Council on American-Islamic Relations published a report in May reporting a that 2016 saw a 57 percent increase in anti-Muslim bias incidents compared to the year before. Meanwhile, ThinkProgress counted 111 anti-Islam incidents from November 2015 to November 2016 using our own methodology, and recently analyzed another 31 attacks that occurred between the election of Donald Trump and February 10 of this year.
Meanwhile, assailants like the alleged killer in Portland — people spouting Islamophobic, xenophobic, and racist views — continue to make headlines. In February, a Kansas man yelling anti-immigrant slurs reportedly opened fire on two Indian men and other patrons in a bar, killing one and leaving good Samaritans who tried to stop him hospitalized. And in October of 2016, three men who called themselves “the Crusaders” were arrested for allegedly plotting to bomb an apartment complex populated by Somali immigrants.